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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Immigration Bill: Truly Dead

Today’s big news so far is that the Senate decisively rejected a cloture motion on the immigration reform bill, ending the debate, in the Senate at least, until after the next general election.
The margin was pretty stunning: 46-53, or fourteen votes shy of the 60 necessary to cut off debate. And even though (annoyingly) the Post article linked to above suggested the bill was killed off by attacks “from the left and right,” it’s clearly GOP support that collapsed. Democrats (including their leader, Harry Reid) supported cloture 33-15, while Republicans (including their leader Mitch McConnell) opposed it 37-12; the two independent split, with Lieberman voting for cloture and Sanders against it. All the Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate (Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Obama) voted for cloture, along with 2004 nominee Kerry. With Sam Brownback, an earlier supporter of the “grand bargain,” voting “nay,” John McCain stands alone, more than ever, in the Republican presidential field.
Presumably, the House won’t volunteer to shut down its phone and email systems by taking up any immigration bill, now that it’s clear the Senate’s done for the time being. But the issue is obviously not going away. Even as they high-five each other for killing “the amnesty bill,” conservative pundits and activists are already talking about next steps towards an “enforcement first” policy (check out the ongoing discussion at National Review’s The Corner for details). And newly emboldened by their Senate victory, anti-immigration conservatives are not likely to be satisfied with fences or border control money or other such amelioratives. If not in the Senate or House, then in the right-wing blogs and on talk radio, we will soon see an effort to make mass arrests and deportations, along with big-time employer sanctions, a limus test for Republican candidates for president and for Congress in 2008.
What Democrats do about all this, other than standing back and watching the carnage, is an open and important question. The Senate bill certainly had obnoxious features (most notably the whole guest worker abomination) that legitimately led some Democrats to oppose it and to help, in a small way, to kill it off. But if the Right takes over this issue in the Republican Party against an increasingly marginalized George W. Bush (not to mention a politically doomed John McCain) and tries to draw the lines as pro- or anti-“amnesty,” Dems will need to explore their own “grand bargain” to provide mercy and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants along with a serious look at fixing the broken process for legal immigration.

3 comments on “Immigration Bill: Truly Dead

  1. Data Guy on

    My suggestion about a POSITIVE and SENSIBLE RESPONSE: Let’s look at increases as needed in LEGAL immigration, and let’s look at changes in the HORRIBLE system for management of immigration.

    Reply
  2. Data Guy on

    This bill was a very bad one. It had both very strong sanctions against current illegals and very very very bad policies about the increase in H-1B visas. The increase in H-1Bs, in some cases to 200-300 % (and in the worst cases unlimited numbers), would have devastated actual US workers.

    Reply
  3. Matt on

    This whole thing has me banging my head into the computer monitor in frustration. Big time employer sanctions and mass arrests — really?
    And the comments on The Corner just boggle the mind. Look at this one from Mark Krikorian:

    Today’s defeat of the Senate amnesty bill was more than a run-of-the-mill legislative victory, representing as it did a self-organizing public’s defeat of combined force of Big Business, (some of) Big Labor, Big Media, Big Religion, Big Philanthropy, Big Academia, and Big Government.

    He goes on to compare it to George Washington going toe to toe with the British regulars at the Battle of Monmouth. !!!
    I wish you could see the astonishment on my face.
    PS —
    I don’t enough about his position to justify my puzzlement, but does it seem odd to anyone else that Bernie Sanders would vote against cloture?

    Reply

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